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    EDIT: The Silver Wolf-For Crown Or Country: Improvisational Theatre
    Posted on Fri, December 06, 2019 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "

     “The halfling and that drunken blonde man will save you?” he said with a smirk. “Let them try-the puny huts of Caradoc and his cabal don’t have the defenses my humble home does. But don’t worry-they’ll join the rest of your friends in the slave markets!”




    Chapter Eighteen

    Improvisational Theatre


    To survive on the treacherous stage that was Aerdi high society, Xavener knew he had to not only know his lines but those of his fellow actors as well. He prided himself on being aware of what the script called for and how he could rewrite it when needed.

    Reydrich was one of the rare exceptions to Xavener’s understanding. The wizard’s foul temper and great wizardly power made him dangerous to deal with. If he decided he didn’t like whoever approached him, he’d turn them into an ant and literally crush them like one. Xavener took a dreadful risk in approaching Reydrich to divine what Caradoc and Xeravho’s cabal was doing, and to capture the Company of the Silver Wolf for him. Most people wouldn’t dare harm the heir to the head of House Darmen, but Reydrich hardly cared about the consequences if he did.

    Even so, Xavener knew he had an edge in dealing with Reydrich that most people didn’t. House Darmen was by far the wealthiest of Aerdy’s Celestial Houses. Powerful wizardry often required vast sums of money. Xavener offered Reydrich such a sum, and so the mage agreed to carry out Xavener’s task. Now, the two men were relaxing in a sitting room of the Darmen family estate outside Zelradton, the Crown of Arumdina sitting on a table between them.

    “Where’s Norreck in all this?” Reydrich demanded, his glare seeming to pierce right through Xavener. “Why’d he entrust you with this?”

    “My father’s in Zelradton on business with House Torquann,” Xavener said truthfully. He suspected Reydrich had cast some mind-reading spell to understand his thoughts, and he didn’t dare lie to the wizard. Reydrich might use the lie as an excuse to incinerate him. “He’ll be away for another couple of days, so suffice to say this is my own initiative.”

    “So House Darmen can be the ones to lead the attack against the Iron League,” Reydrich said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “And in a way that can’t be traced back to Norreck. That makes you expendable, doesn’t it?”

    “We’ve no desire to supplant Naelax in leading any invasion of the League,” Xavener said. “It’s only right that the House of the Herzog and the Overking be the ones to gain the glory and the wealth if such an invasion happens.”

    Reydrich’s eyes narrowed as Xavener finished speaking, and the younger man could hear his heartbeat in his ears.

    “Rightly so,” Reydrich said. He fell silent for several moments, as if considering what to say next. Xavener knew Reydrich had little sympathy for Chelor, who he considered an incompetent buffoon. Xavener also knew Reydrich didn’t care much for Ivid V either, hating the Overking for passing him over as Herzog in favor of Chelor.

    That was what Xavener had counted on in approaching Reydrich.

    “What about this bauble?” Reydrich said, gesturing towards the Crown of Arumdina. “Planning to start a collection similar to Caradoc’s? Or are you just looking for a profit?”

    “Never you mind,” Xavener said, as his own eyes narrowed. “It’s my concern and none of yours!”

    “Its magic is incredibly powerful,” Reydrich said. “I ought to take it as payment for everything I’ve done for you.”

    “The thirty thousand gold ivids I’m paying you are ample reward,” Xavener said, referring to the Great Kingdom’s gold coinage, “particularly since you didn’t capture all of those adventurers.”

    Reydrich’s eyes blazed at that. He grasped the arms of his chair, as his cheeks turned a deep, angry red.

    “Better to lose your crown than your soul,” Reydrich said as he stood up.

    Xavener stood up to match him, not backing down an inch.

    “Family ties are a wonderful thing, aren’t they?” Xavener said with a sneer.

    “You’re fool enough to think I side with Caradoc, or Xeravho, or any of those other-“ Reydrich said, before his mind-reading spell showed him that wasn’t what Xavener was thinking about.

    “I know all about it, of course,” Xavener said. “About your true relations to the rest of House Naelax.”

    Reydrich felt his blood run cold as he realized the implications of what Xavener was saying. His mind-reading spell confirmed that the younger man wasn’t bluffing.

    “I could disgrace you overnight,” Xavener continued. “You could kill me where you stood, of course, but if you did that the knowledge would be made public. And all your power wouldn’t be able to change that.”

    Reydrich stared at Xavener with pure hatred, but he said and did nothing. Again, his mind-reading spell showed him Xavener wasn’t bluffing.

    Xavener reached into his pocket and pulled out a bulging pouch. Wordlessly, he tossed it to Reydrich, who glanced inside. The glitter of thousands of gold ivids worth of diamonds shone back at Reydrich, who placed the pouch in his pocket.

    “I believe our business is done,” Xavener said, his expression stone calm.

    “This isn’t over, boy,” Reydrich said, before he chanted a spell and promptly vanished.

    His eyes seemed to linger for a second after he disappeared, staring at Xavener with poisonous loathing.

    Xavener breathed a sigh of relief as he felt his heartbeat start to slow down. His sides and back were uncomfortably cold from the sweat pouring down them, and he winced at the tension in his chest. Dealing with Reydrich was a harrowing experience, and one he hoped he wouldn’t have to repeat for a very long time.

    He felt his frustrations drain away as he went the next room to converse with another very special guest. That guest was securely bound in her chair, and her mouth was stuffed with a thick gag. Seline began struggling as Xavener approached her, smiling that same smile he had when he’d met her at the autumn ball three days ago. His men had locked the rest of the companions in the dungeons beneath the Darmen estate, but he wanted a few words with Seline before she joined them.

    “I have to say, I admire your cleverness,” Xavener said to Seline as she pulled fruitlessly against her restraints. “I wondered how you might steal the documents Caradoc and Xeravho need for their plan, not to mention your precious gnomish crown. More the pity it wasn’t enough. Don’t blame yourself, though. No matter what you tried, I would have won in the end.”

    “This venture’s been more profitable than I could have expected. We Darmens pride ourselves on recognizing the value of things, and that crown of yours is worth some eighty thousand gold ivids…or possibly more if a gnomish king could tap into its power,” Xavener said, his eyes gleaming at the possibilities. “House Garasteth will pay back my buying your debt when I turn you and your sister over to them, and the rest of your friends will fetch fine slave prices. Best of all, the plans of Chelor’s cabal will be ruined once I arrange for the Iron League to find their papers.”

    Seline tried to mumble something through her gag, and Xavener understood her perfectly.

    “The halfling and that drunken blonde man will save you?” he said with a smirk. “Let them try-the puny huts of Caradoc and his cabal don’t have the defenses my humble home does. But don’t worry-they’ll join the rest of your friends in the slave markets!”

    Xavener smiled as Seline thrashed in fury, shouting invectives at him through her gag, as he walked over to the door leading to the outer landing. Opening it, he smiled at the armored men he'd posted as guards to keep anyone from disturbing him 

    “Take her down with the rest of her friends,” Xavener said as he gestured at Seline, “and then find the castellan. I dare say I deserve to celebrate!”

    Xavener walked off along the landing, laughing triumphantly all the way as visions of castles and crowns danced in his head.


    “I’d rather try and break into the Greyhawk Grand Citadel,” Amyalla said to Weimar as they huddled around a fire in a small copse. “If Xavener can afford the services of a wizard that powerful, there’s no way we can get into Xavener’s manor with just the two of us.”

    The halfling wrapped her arms around her legs, closing her eyes in shame. She and Weimar were the only members of their group who’d managed to fight off the effects of Reydrich’s magical symbol, and she felt terrible for abandoning her friends. Weimar pointedly reminded her that they would have been slaughtered if they’d tried to fight the wizard, and assured her that he could follow Reydrich’s carriage. She’d gotten completely discouraged when she saw the carriage’s destination, wondering what they could do.

    “Actually, there just might be,” Weimar said as he tossed another log onto the fire. “If I’m right, then all the defenses won’t matter one bit.”

    Amyalla stared back at Weimar skeptically.

    “How do we do get in, then?” she asked.

    “We go in the front door,” Weimar said with a twinkle in his eye.

    "
     
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